Book Club Reading Lists
Brainerd Library Book Club 2020 Titles
4th Wednesday of the Month, starting at 6:30 pm
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.
As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life—sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition—its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy
Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning 5 decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the 4 parents and 6 children. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.
In her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, forcing them to come to terms with their losses, guilt, and the deeply loyal connection with one another. With equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.
The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.
Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.
Educated by Tara Westover
Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home
Healthy Exchange Book Club 2020 Title List
Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy by Thomas Moore
Using examples from his practice as a psychotherapist and teacher who lectures widely on the soul of medicine and spirituality, Moore argues for a new vision of aging: as a dramatic series of initiations, rather than a diminishing experience, one that each of us has the tools―experience, maturity, fulfillment―to live out. Subjects include: *Why melancholy is a natural part of aging, and how to accept it, rather than confuse it with depression *The vital role of the elder and mentor in the lives of younger people *The many paths of spiritual growth and learning that open later in life *Sex and sensuality *Building new communities and leaving a legacy
The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates
In this moving and compelling book, Melinda shares lessons she’s learned from the inspiring people she’s met during her work and travels around the world. As she writes in the introduction, “That is why I had to write this book―to share the stories of people who have given focus and urgency to my life. I want all of us to see ways we can lift women up where we live.” Melinda’s unforgettable narrative is backed by startling data as she presents the issues that most need our attention―from child marriage to lack of access to contraceptives to gender inequity in the workplace. And, for the first time, she writes about her personal life and the road to equality in her own marriage. Throughout, she shows how there has never been more opportunity to change the world―and ourselves.
You Can Stop Humming Now by Daniela Lamas
In this ruminative account of treating patients, Lamas, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, analyzes how the critically ill manage life during and after treatment. She meets people who are neither bitter nor sorrowful about their conditions, but are constantly aware of their precarious states. Among her patients are Van, a grandfather tethered to a battery-operated heart device, which, when fully charged, allows him to camp or fish with his grandson, and Meghan, a young woman who outlives her cystic fibrosis prognosis and attends college, continuing her physical therapy in her dorm room. When Lamas visits Ben, a young man with brain damage, she witnesses a mother reveling in Ben’s small victories, such as when he attempts to make a sandwich. Through these visits and others, Lamas weaves a thoughtful and beautiful narrative: “I wanted to know how they would learn to adapt to new realities and whether they would regret the decisions they had made.” The author wonderfully captures the lives of those who’ve completed treatment and adjusted to a new existence.
The Fate of Food : What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World by Amanda Little
Climate models show that global crop production will decline every decade for the rest of this century due to drought, heat, and flooding. Water supplies are in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the world’s population is expected to grow another 30 percent by midcentury. So how, really, will we feed nine billion people sustainably in the coming decades?
Throughout her journey, Little finds and shares a deeper understanding of the threats of climate change and encounters a sense of awe and optimism about the lessons of our past and the scope of human ingenuity.
May 6, 2020
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. In this lively and compelling account—now updated with new material by the author—Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in I Feel Bad About My Neck, a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself. Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age. Utterly courageous, uproariously funny, and unexpectedly moving in its truth telling, I Feel Bad About My Neck is a scrumptious, irresistible treat of a book, full of truths, laugh out loud moments that will appeal to readers of all ages.
Prescriptions for Living: Inspirational Lessons for a Joyful, Loving Life by Bernie Siegel
This book is a continuation of the work I began when I became Bernie. It is a collection of stories about how to deal with life’s difficulties. Most of the people in these stories have not had the great wake-up call; that is, they are mot facing life-threatening illnesses. So in a sense, this book is preventive medicine. It is a prescription for living that gives you effective and healthy ways of dealing with the adversity that occurs in everyone’s life. I want to help you learn to accept your morality before something catastrophic brings you face-to-face with the end of your life.
Aging with Grace by David Snowdon
In 1986 Dr. David Snowdon, one of the world’s leading experts on Alzheimer’s disease, embarked on a revolutionary scientific study that would forever change the way we view aging—and ultimately living. Dubbed the “Nun Study” because it involves a unique population of 678 Catholic sisters, this remarkable long-term research project has made headlines worldwide with its provocative discoveries. Yet Aging with Grace is more than a groundbreaking health and science book. It is the inspiring human story of these remarkable women—ranging in age from 74 to 106—whose dedication to serving others may help all of us live longer and healthier lives.
If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t) by Betty White
It-girl Betty White delivers a hilarious, slyly profound take on love, life, celebrity, and everything in between. Drawing from a lifetime of lessons learned, seven-time Emmy winner Betty White’s wit and wisdom take center stage as she tackles topics like friendship, romantic love, aging, television, fans, love for animals, and the brave new world of celebrity. If You Ask Me mixes her thoughtful observations with humorous stories from a seven- decade career in Hollywood. Longtime fans and new fans alike will relish Betty’s candid take on everything from her rumored crush on Robert Redford (true) to her beauty regimen (“I have no idea what color my hair is and I never intend to find out”) to the Facebook campaign that helped persuade her to host Saturday Night Live despite her having declined the hosting job three times already.